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Sharapova bid lies in tatters

Former champion Maria Sharapova's return to Melbourne Park ended in a shock 7-6 3-6 6-4 defeat by fellow Russian Maria Kirilenko in the first round of the Australian Open today.

Sharapova, who won the 2008 title on her last appearance at Rod Laver Arena, posted 66 unforced errors and struggled with her serve on big points against her 58th-ranked opponent.

"I certainly had my chances, I just didn't execute," the 14th-seeded Sharapova told reporters after being dumped out of the year's first grand slam in three hours and 22 minutes. "She was up and then I'd get back there and back in the game," added the former world number one, who contributed to her downfall with 11 double-faults.

Sharapova, who was unable to defend her title last year because of a shoulder injury, added: "I just didn't take advantage of that (and) let her control the situation again."

After losing the first set in a tie-break, Sharapova rallied in the second to level the match but surrendered a break with her eighth double-fault of the match to trail 2-0 in the decider.

Kirilenko wobbled when serving for the match at 5-3 to allow Sharapova to break back, but coolly sealed the win after bringing up two match points.

"I think it's one of the best wins for me," said the 22-year-old Kirilenko, a five-times winner on the tour, whose last title came in Seoul in 2008.

"I start to feel much better in the second set actually. I start to feel that I can be aggressive, as well."

Both players struggled with their serves throughout the contest and Sharapova gifted Kirilenko two set points in the first set before netting a backhand to go a set down.

Sharapova hit back in the second, breaking Kirilenko after a marathon game of nine deuces to lead 2-0 and then bringing up set point with a forehand winner down the line.

Kirilenko, unintimidated by her more highly-fancied countrywoman, held her nerve in the third set to post the tournament's first major upset.

Kim Clijsters hardly needed to raise a sweat as she won her first-round match with qualifier Valerie Tetreault 6-0 6-4. The 26-year-old Belgian raced through the opening set in just 23 minutes and while she took her foot off the accelerator in the second, the match was always within the 15th seed's keeping.

Dinara Safina overcame a rusty performance to advance to the second round, just a couple of months after fearing that she might not be able to play at Melbourne Park.

UNFORCED

Safina, last year's beaten finalist, committed nine double faults and 39 unforced errors before eventually beating a dogged Magdalena Rybarikova 6-4 6-4 in the first match in the Hisense Arena.

Andy Roddick dropped only nine games as he began his campaign with a one-sided 6-1 6-4 6-4 win over rising Dutch star Thiemo de Bakker.

De Bakker, the world number 80, served 17 aces but was otherwise outclassed by the American seventh seed.

British number one Andy Murray was too good for Kevin Anderson of South Africa as the Scot beat the 23-year-old 6-1 6-1 6-2.

Louk Sorensen, the world No 284, became the first Irish player in 25 years to play in the main draw of a Grand Slam as he was facing world No 101 Yen-Hsun Lu in the last match today on court 11.


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